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Why do cats knead?

Is kneading the same thing as making biscuits?

If you spot your cat doing what appears to be mimicking someone kneading bread dough, you should know that they’re not training for a job at the local bakery. Kneading is actually a normal cat habit often called “making biscuits” among cat parents, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. 

It’s fair to wonder what’s behind this quirky trait, so we’re sharing everything cat parents need to know about their pet’s kneading. 

Why do cats knead? 

The reason behind this habit is still mostly unknown, Dr. McCullough says. “It’s thought to be a natural and instinctive behavior stemming from kittenhood as kittens often knead while nursing,” she explains. 

There aren’t different types of kneading, but there could be multiple reasons behind the behavior. According to Dr. McCullough, most cats knead when they’re relaxed or content, but they may also do it to mark their territory as they have  scent glands in their paws.

Soft objects, like blankets, pillows, clothing or stuffed toys, are generally cats’ favorite items to knead. But, cat parents may also notice their pets kneading people. “It is considered normal for cats to knead their parents. This means that they are relaxed, content and comfortable,” she adds. 

RELATED: Why does my cat keep swatting at me?

Why do cats purr and knead?

When a cat is purring and kneading simultaneously, it usually means they’re content, Dr. McCullough shares. 

How to stop your cat from kneading on you

Understandably, you may want to curb your cat’s kneading behavior if they’re using their claws. Not only is it painful to you, but it could be causing damage to your things. You can redirect your cat’s kneading by spraying pheromones, which are scents mother cats release to calm their babies, to a specific area (pro-tip: pick somewhere soft!). 

You could also try to replace the kneading behavior with a command like “sit” and reward them with a treat, Dr. McCullough says. And if you can’t redirect their kneading and pheromones aren’t working, she recommends keeping your cat’s nails trimmed or using cat nail caps to prevent feeling their sharp claws. 

Is kneading the sign of an underlying illness? 

Luckily, when a cat kneads, it’s not usually the sign of an underlying illness, Dr. McCullough says. 

So, the next time your cat makes biscuits, feel free to let them knead away. It’s not something to worry about unless it’s damaging your items or hurting you. If the kneading is damaging your home or hurting you, schedule a grooming appointment or ask your veterinarian about nail caps. 

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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